University Strategizing: The Role of Evaluation as a Sensemaking Tool

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Higher education institutions (hereafter HEI) are increasingly adopting practices from the private sector. One such practice is strategy formulation and strategic development processes. To study such practices and processes is important as we need to strengthen our knowledge of how new practices may influence and change the HEI on the inside, while also recognizing that strategy formulation is about how the HEI interprets its relationship to the environment.

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... Transformational change in a higher education institution, as in any other organisation, affects the whole organisation, as it changes the institutional culture through shaping expectations for behaviours, processes, and products. It involves both top-down and bottom-up sensemaking and sensegiving efforts (Frølich and Stensaker, 2012;Gioia and Chittipeddi, 1991;Kezar, 2013;Kezar and Eckel, 2002). This paper focuses on future-oriented sensemaking processes in a project that was created to foster strategic change in a Finnish higher education institution in connection with its institutional positioning efforts. ...
... This paper contributed to the discussion on sensemaking in higher education organisations (Frølich and Stensaker, 2012;Gioia and Chittipeddi, 1991;Kezar, 2013;Kezar and Eckel, 2002), illustrating that a foresight process may combine both top-down and bottom-up sensemaking. Although the institutional positioning areas of sales and services were decided on by the top-level management of the organisation, the definitions were built collectively by both internal and external stakeholders of the higher education institution with the support of the management. ...
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine how a foresight project supports institutional positioning efforts through joint sensemaking. Design/methodology/approach – This paper describes a case study that investigated the design, implementation, and outcomes of a foresight project at a Finnish higher education institution that selected sales and services as its institutional focus areas. According to the institutional strategy, all students should have acquired solid sales and service skills before the completion of their studies. The foresight methods used in this study were e-Delphi, futures workshops, and futures narratives. The data gathered in this iterative foresight process resulted in the delineation of eight future sales and service roles and their related competences, which were subsequently used for redesigning curricula, new programme development, and personnel training. Findings – With the careful choice of foresight methods, the organisation was not only able to define future competence needs based on the collective wisdom of its stakeholders, but also fostered the organisation’s strategic transformation process. Practical implications – This paper gives insight into how to use a foresight process to foster institution-wide change. Originality/value – This is one of only a few studies on how higher education institutions could implement their positioning strategies.
... Strategizing is defined as the enactment of organizational strategy through organizational member practices (Delmas & Toffel, 2008;Jarzabkowski & Fenton, 2006). In higher education literature, strategizing is said to be heavily influenced by the demands and pressures stemming from the legal, social and political environment to which the organizations must (formally) conform to in order to warrant legitimacy and secure resources (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983;Frølich & Stensaker, 2012). This environment is defined by the institutional theory as the higher education institutional field (Lawrence et al., 2009), which steers organizational behavior (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). ...
This article addresses how higher education organizations strategize in complex and coherent fields. Unlike previous studies which looked at either exogenous (field) or endog-enous causes in strategizing, this article integrates them to explain organizational responses. We devise a conceptual framework under the premises of new institutional theory in order to connect macro-transformation in the institutional field to the micro-processes of organizational strategizing. The framework highlights that every combination of the analytical dimensions (field and organization) presents more possible strategizing practices. Then we test it on the responses to the same change in the field (introduction of research mandate) of three universities of applied sciences located in two countries (Portugal and the Netherlands) with dichotomous field conditions by analyzing organizational members' practices. Findings support that both field and organizations warrant investigation in strat-egizing research since it is not possible to determine the strategizing outcomes just from the combination of theoretical dimensions.
While existing research has explored the development of international branch campuses (IBCs) in Malaysia from several dimensions, the discussion on the IBCs’ identity development within the dynamics of higher education internationalisation can benefit from further elucidation. Applying the framework of institutional change, this research inquired how Malaysian IBCs proceeded with identity development in their institutional change and fit into the internationalisation agenda as a new set of players. Semi-structured interviews and non-participant observation were used to collect data, along with relevant documents used subsidiarily in the study. The results showed that the IBCs experienced various identity development processes in their institutional changes, showing a stable growth and enrichment of international, regional, and local elements. The identity development within IBCs’ institutional change sheds light on the development of higher education internationalisation.
One of the most significant European higher education reform initiatives of the last decade is the introduction of a European Qualification Framework (EQF) emphasizing Learning Outcomes (LOs) in higher education. The EQF is offered as a reform to contribute to increased transparency and mobility, and also implies a certain degree of standardization and comparability as to how these initiatives are implemented in European countries. The current article considers these changes in light of institutional perspectives that highlight how common HE reforms, in practice, often vary considerably. It investigates how factors of national policy-making contexts, reform traditions and broader reform agendas contribute to variations in contemporary interpretations and applications of LOs, here in the cases of Norwegian and English HE. It argues that (1) the characteristics of English and Norwegian higher education provided contexts where the perceptions of LOs evolved in very different ways, (2) the different political–administrative structures in the two countries were linked to different governance logics at the national level and institutional levels, and (3) despite these variations, some common mechanisms driving reform can be identified, in the role of intermediary and quality assurance bodies.
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